Andover & Villages met with Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Kit Malthouse, after local Conservatives launched their 2015 election campaign outside of the Guildhall in Andover’s High Street.
We took a seat in Butters Cafe to talk through Kit’s election campaign and his priorities for the area, if he is successful in the 2015 elections.
Kit recently resigned as London’s Deputy Mayor for Business & Enterprise to concentrate on his campaign.
AaV: What made you enter the political arena?
Kit: I started by becoming a borough councillor. There were some issues locally that I wanted to address and so I put myself up for election and I loved it. I was a councillor for 8 years in Pimlico, and it was great to make a difference and to help move local issues forward.
AaV: What was working with Boris Johnson like?
Kit: It was enormous fun working with Boris. He is a great politician and fantastic at delegating. If he gave me something to do, he let me get on with it, but was always there if I needed support or help to sort out any issues. Boris is full of optimism and energy and is a great asset to our government. The seven years I spent working with him was great. I look forward to seeing him win in May’s elections.
AaV: What do you think of your opponents?
Kit: I haven’t met any of them yet, so couldn’t really comment. However, I applaud anyone who gets involved with politics, because it means that they want to do good. But I don’t like demonising the other parties, I just don’t agree with their politics and think they are misguided, but I look forward to meeting them.
AaV: One of your priorities is for ‘Ambitious Schools’ – tell us more.
Kit: It is essential that we recognise that success in schools is linked to attracting higher value jobs in an area, and so I think whoever wins here needs to have their shoulder to the wheel to improve educational standards locally.
If I am elected I would want to get schools, Hampshire County Council and parents together and create a push on improving educational standards and achievements in the area. We have improving schools locally, and we need to support them to make them even better.
AaV: Preserving the character of our villages, towns and countryside with sensitive planning decisions under local control is one of your priorities. Can you explain more about this?
Kit: I am very much a ‘localist’ and believe it is important that planning decisions are made at a local level, by people with local knowledge making informed decisions. I would like to see new homes built in villages with designs that fit in with the local look, maybe even thatched cottages. We need to preserve the character of our villages.
AaV: Transport is one of your focus points. Tell us more?
Kit: Transport is covered by Micro and Macro issues.
For instance on a micro level, there are problems in places like Overton with parking in the High Street. There has been much discussion about it but no improvement has been found. We need to get specialised planning and transport experts teams involved, to look at ways of making the area work for the town, for those using the facilities and anyone driving through.
On a Macro level, the train stations and parking needs improving at both Andover and Whitchurch – although SW Trains has recently revealed plans for more parking in Anodver. The train services in North West Hampshire need improvement, and work needs to be done on the A303, especially towards Salisbury Plain. There are plans and fundng in place but we need to ensure we keep pushing for improvements.
AaV: Small businesses are a key focus of your campaign. Why?
Kit: I myself started a business 20 years ago, which is still running today. It’s hard running a small business and, after that experience, I understand the importance of supporting independent traders and businesses, and one of the things it is key to focus on is making sure businesses can afford to keep running.
The government is currently reviewing business rates for example. I would like to see ‘Business Rates Holidays’ increased to help small businesses, including local village shops, to stay afloat financially.
I have recently held a Village Shop Summit, designed to come up with a series of themes and campaigns that we can put into action. Village shops are a classic case of “use it or lose it” so as we put our plans together, please use your local shop, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Because as the saying goes: ‘You won’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’.
AaV: What kind of business do you own?
Kit: As I said, it has been going 20 years and it is a finance company that leases industrial plant and equipment to other smaller companies. There are now eight of us on the team. I don’t get involved with the day-to-day running of the business, but I remain Chair of the board.
Things were really tough for us during the crash but we made it through and I think we learned lessons about customer service and the importance of supporting each other when times are hard.
AaV: Tell us about your family.
Kit: My wife, Julieana is Canadian and we have a 16 year old son and 3 year old twins – one of each – a boy and girl!
AaV: If you win the seat for North West Hampshire, will you all move to the Andover area?
Kit: We already have a home in Abbotts Ann and also one in London and we move between the two. I am still Assembly Member for West Central and will be until early 2016. I was elected to that role and feel I should complete the term for the voters and also to avoid a costly by-election. If I win, its going to mean a lot of hard work, but I’m used to that.
AaV: Where will your main residence be?
Kit: As I said, we currently move between the two; most MPs I know have to.
AaV: Where will your children go to school?
Kit: They are a bit young to be thinking about that! The main thing is that its important that my children are with me, wherever I am.
AaV: What does Mrs Malthouse think of the area?
Kit: We all love it! We especially enjoy visiting Finkley Down Farm, the Merlin’s Kingdom in the Leisure Centre and a big favourite with us all is Frangos in Bridge Street!